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The Interview

Exclusive: 'We would not accept US drone strikes inside Kenya,' warns President Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking to FRANCE 24.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking to FRANCE 24. © FRANCE 24

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 while on an official visit to France, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta discussed the main challenges facing him. Asked about the fight against terror, the Kenyan leader denied reports that the US military has sought authorisation to carry out drone strikes inside Kenya. He stressed that if such a request were made, he would refuse it. Kenyatta also addressed the Covid-19 pandemic, Kenya's economic development, as well as a bid to dissolve parliament because of a lack of gender equality. 

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In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned that it was too early to say the worst was over regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. He said he had ordered a relaxation of restrictions in Kenya because the trend of infections was improving, but he said schools would remain closed for now and refused to give a date for their reopening.

Kenyatta admitted the country's economy had taken a hit, but said Kenya had fared better than many countries and added that he was optimistic for the future of the economy. He vowed to leave no stone unturned in the investigation into possible misuse of Covid-19 funds by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, stressing that investigations had been launched and would be pursued wherever they might lead.

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The president hailed the business deals signed in France for infrastructure projects in Kenya, stressing that they would be financed by the private sector and, as such, not add any more government debt.

With regards to terrorism, Kenyatta said the threat to his country had sharply diminished but that Somalia's Islamist group al Shabaab remained the main danger. He did not commit to a date for Kenyan troops to withdraw from Somalia. He strongly denied reports that the US military has sought authorisation to carry out drone strikes inside Kenya. He stressed that if such a request were made, he would refuse it.

Asked about an advisory issued by the Chief Justice to dissolve parliament because gender equality measures had not been enacted, he said that the decision was now before the courts, adding that dissolving parliament was not his intention.

>> Kenya's top judge demands dissolution of parliament over lack of women lawmakers

Regarding his tense relation with Deputy President William Ruto, Kenyatta warned that now was not the time to campaign for the 2022 presidential election but instead to work to improve inclusiveness by reaching out to the opposition. He said such a move was not aimed at weakening his vice president. However, Kenyatta refused to commit to support him in 2022 like both men had agreed to do when they decided to run together on a joint ticket back in 2012.

Finally, Kenyatta said he would not seek to change the constitution to seek a third presidential term and that he did not wish to remain in power, even if a position of prime minister was created for him through a constitutional reform currently under consideration.

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